RIO DE JANEIRO — There was a calm, relaxed atmosphere at the final practice for the U.S. women’s basketball team.

Maybe it’s because injured guard Sue Bird was able to participate. Or maybe because many of the players have been in this position before – a win away from another Olympic title.

“I understand it’s a gold medal game, we’ve approached it like any other game,” said Bird, who has helped the U.S. win the last three golds at the Olympics. “At the start of this entire month, every single practice and game we approached it like it was a gold medal game. Today’s no different.”

The Americans will play Spain on Saturday in search of a sixth consecutive gold. Spain has already guaranteed itself of a first-ever Olympic medal in women’s basketball.

It looks like the U.S. will have Bird back for the title tilt. She missed the semifinal win over France, as she was recovering from a sprained right knee capsule. She said she felt much better Friday and it showed. After taking part in practice, Bird went through a hard workout when it was finished to test the right knee.

She stopped short of saying she definitely would play Saturday.


“I can’t give you an answer for tomorrow,” Bird said smiling. “I can be happy with the way things have been going. Long term is great, short term is getting better.”

Bird said the pain is down to about a “one or two out of 10.” But she isn’t going to push it if she doesn’t feel comfortable, and she has the utmost confidence in her teammates if she can’t play.

“I’m not going to be dumb about it. Our team isn’t built around one person, it’s built around 12,” she said. “As they showed yesterday, it doesn’t matter who’s out there, we have a really good team. I’m not going to do anything stupid.”

Coach Geno Auriemma said the decision is up to Bird whether she plays.

MEN’S SOCCER: Brazilians know the 7-1 loss to Germany’s senior team at the World Cup will never be forgotten.

That doesn’t mean that defeating the rivals in the Olympic final wouldn’t have a special sweetness.


Two years after the humiliating home defeat, Brazil faces Germany’s under-23 team with a chance to win the soccer gold medal for the first time.

A victory would give Brazil the only trophy it hasn’t won in soccer, but not revenge for 2014.

“That was the World Cup, this is the Olympic team,” Brazil Coach Rogerio Micale said. “Neymar never played in that match, so there is nothing that could generate any type of feeling that we have to take revenge.”

BOXING: The two most successful nations in Olympic boxing history somehow haven’t faced each other with a gold medal on the line in 20 years.

U.S. bantamweight Shakur Stevenson and Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez will end that drought in a fight that could resonate through boxing for years.

Two of the most spectacular fighters at the Rio Olympics have emerged from a terrifically talented division to face off for gold. Floyd Mayweather isn’t the only boxing promoter who will be watching closely when the smooth American and the lyrical Cuban trade punches for the first time – and probably not the last.


“I think it’s about to be a great matchup,” Stevenson said. “We’ve got the 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, great fighter. You’ve got the up-and-coming rising superstar from the USA, and we’re about to put on a show. We’re ready to turn this place out.”

After winning gold as a flyweight in London, Ramirez has more experience than the 19-year-old Stevenson. Yet Stevenson has never lost an amateur fight in international competition, soaring from Newark to Rio in a meteoric career.

“He’s a good fighter with a lot of good technical skills,” Ramirez said of Stevenson. “It’s a great matchup for our final fight at the Olympics. He’s a guy that likes to fight, and so am I. He’s a guy that brings a lot of skill and intelligence to the ring.”

Stevenson is one fight away from winning the first gold medal for an American man since Andre Ward, his favorite boxer, did it 12 years ago. Stevenson and Ward have spoken throughout the tournament.

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